Thursday, August 30, 2012

DYNAZTY: "Sultans Of Sin"

Rating: RRRR
Label: StormVox Records/Sofo Records 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Dynazty's third album has been out for a while, but now that it's getting released in Finland, I've been given the chance to review it. And why not, the album's been on my "wannahearit"-list for some time.

I've heard the band's debut album and seen them live once. The album wasn't too interesting, but in a live setting the band was better, very energetic and impressive. Only thing that was missing was great songs. With "Sultans Of Sin", the situation is getting better.

Dynazty's style is somewhat similar to their labelmates H.E.A.T., although their music is heavier and less AOR-influenced. Big choruses galore, guitarists churn out familiar-sounding but effective riffs and vocalist Nils Molin sings like a young rock god with an unlimited range.

I must admit that my favourite track is not written by the band. Their Eurovision Contest entry "Land Of Broken Dreams" (written by Thomas G:son and Thomas “Plec” Johansson) just happens to be a textbook example of a glorious melodic hard rock anthem. There's "Whoa-Oh-Oh's", there's a modulation... but I can't help it, it may be predictable but it's also irresistable.

The band's own songs cannot match the catchiness of "Land..." but that's not to say they're bad. They're certainly trying hard to write killer hard rock songs, and with the likes of "Raise Your Hands", "More Than A Man" and "The One To Blame" they succeed at least to a degree. Their "obligatory ballad" "Back Again" isn't half bad either. Actually, none of the remaining songs aren't half bad, it's just that there's still room for improvement. If they find that extra spark for their next album, the RRRRR's will be rrrolling freely to their direction and world domination is imminent. Anyway, good stuff!



Tuesday, August 28, 2012

GWYN ASHTON: "Radiogram"

Rating: RRR
Label: Proper 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Gwyn Ashton, the proper blues guitar slinger and quite the accomplished singer I may add. "Radiogram", his latest offering to the ancient gods of rhythm and blues and the diverse guest artist roster includes everybody from Don Airey (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath), Kim Wilson (Fabulous Thunderbirds), Robbie Blunt (Robert Plant, Bronco, Silverhead), Johnny Mastro (LA's Mama's Boys), Mark Stanway (Magnum, Phil Lynott), Mo Birch (UB40, Go West, Culture Club) to the young up-and-coming guitarist Henry Parker.

The sound level is cranked up to eleven and proves just how little rock bands needed to kick-ass in the old days. Ashton's old Fender (I believe it's the sixties version of the axe?) upfront, a hammering bass further back, the rather minimal snare based drum kit slamming in the background, and of course the occasional ebony/ivory work of Airey/Stanway. Nicely recorded in England, mixed in LA, US of A by Lost Prophets' producer Justin Hopfer and mastered by Don Bartley, who was recently commissioned by EMI to re-master the audiophile version of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

"Don't Wanna Fall" reeks of the classic U.K. guitar rock and the likes of Small Faces, Yardbirds, and the very early Deep Purple. Actually, it's also similar to the compositions of Gary Moore and what he did on "Corridors Of Power" in the early eighties. "Let Me In", "Dog Eat Dog", and the instrumental piece of "Bluz For Roy", the other side of the coin as it's more towards the proper roadhouse and delta blues of the past. "Fortunate Kind" feature the odd pre-chorus 'ala early seventies Slade (!?) and Ashton are copying the Noddy Holder approach to singing. Nontheless, Joe Bonamassa-ish is probably a better and more correct description of the ingredients at play.

"I Just Wanna Make Love To You", the 1950's blues number by Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters and once again in merely a couple of weeks time have we been listening to a new cover version of the tune (see: the 'Fraze Gang' review elsewhere). This is a phat swamp groove version and not too shabby at all. "Angel" takes a breather from the aggro blues and have clearly been inspired by "Little Wing" (Jimi Hendrix). "For Your Love", more or less the filler track, and "Comin' Home" the throw-away blues bar rocker at the end of the disc. The bottomline: solid work and a very safe pick up if you're into the Ashton music and artists such as Bonamassa, etc. Simply crank up the volume and let blues rule.

The READY STANCE: "Damndest"

Rating: RR
Label: Damndest Rec. 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

It's probably my fault... but I can't agree with the press-release regarding sound and influences of The Ready Stance. Guitarist Wes Pence met lead vocalist and guitarist Chase Johnston in Athens, Georgia, US of A, and an animated conversation between the two revealed an uncannily simpatico musical vision and still more shared touchstones: Big Star, Television, VU, The Band. Well, it's obviously their influences, but that's not necessarily the same thing as their sound. Me thinks they're more of the Prefab Sprout, Squeeze, 80's R.E.M. and any wacky alternative U.K. rock act of today.

Quite the storytellers and expect to find lyric of various strange topics such as, "Steamship Moselle", the calliope-infused account of an 1838 maritime explosion that ends with an ill-fated minister found clutching a dry Bible? "Marathon", an amusing local Ohio legend concerning a confused fistfight between a speech-impaired gas station attendant and a customer with a similar affliction. While, "Real America", is the poetic look at divisive politics and pundits who claim to represent the 'Real America'. I guess their lyrics simply express what this band believes alt rock should be trying to deal with? The slightly wacky, 'out there' material.

To be frank, the lyrical content - their strongest point and it's nice to hear something different from the usual rubbish written by white blokes on dope. I'm not entirely convinced by the actual songs though. "Smiley" sees the band tightening up their material as they're delivering shortened, more compact rock. The Ready Stance may not be as familiar name as their influences, but "Damndest" proves them to be the decent rock band from America with a penchant for the U.K. sound. Hardly originals though and there's plenty of "decent" acts out there. Bigger and better things to come?

Monday, August 27, 2012


Rating: RR
Label: Century Media 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

"Blood" is the fourth album from In This Moment. I've only heard the second album "The Dream" before this one, and based on that I was hoping that "Blood" would be something similar. It isn't. The band has toughened up their sound, vocalist Maria Brink has concentrated on a more screamy delivery and the melodies have given way to aggression. This might give them more credibility among the metal and hardcore fans but for those of us who enjoyed their melodic side it's rather bad news.

There are a couple of tracks that deserve to be mentioned; "From The Ashes" is the kind of melodic yet powerful track I was hoping there would be more on this album and "11:11" features an outstanding, raw and emotional vocal from Maria Brink. A few of the others have some enjoyable moments, but otherwise, no... whatever "-core" this is, it's not for me.

Friday, August 24, 2012

SNEW: "What's It To Ya"

Rating: RRRR
Label: SnewYouRecords 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The lads of Snew have recorded their third and best album so far. It's loud, primal, in your face, sleaze/hardrock from the US of A and the band has taken a huge step towards world domination. Produced by Bobby Owsinski, a pioneer in surround sound music mixing whose production credits include projects for Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Chicago. Recorded and mixed by Ken Scott who has recorded many of rock's seminal albums, including Beatles White album, David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and Supertramp's Crime Of The Century.

Yep, Snew are definitely ready for the next level and new bassist Willie Basse of classic metal pioneers Black Sheep fame (which also featured a certain vocalist by the name of Lou Gramm), fits right in with the rest of the band. Having gained a loyal following for their raw, electrified monster rock, "What's It To Ya" sits nicely inbetween the New York rock of The Dictators, MC5, Twisted Sister (their debut album only) and the standard AC/DC and unfortunately some of the Jackyl too.

However, I'm happy to report that "What's It To Ya" is overall more towards the classic sound of The Dictators and good old biker metal. Curtis Don Vito howls like a madman on top the tunes and they may still look like the rejects from a Spinal Tap movie. However, you can't deny the sheer power and attitude of the band and their songs. "Clever Girl", such a clever little tune, 'Handsome' Dick Manitoba surely must be proud of the lads. In fact, almost every tune from the opening "Release The Beast" to the closing of "All Over You", gets you by the throat and refuses to let go.

Snew are all those things that most of our current hard rock and metal acts seem to have completely forgotten about, loud, obnoxious, dirty, vicious and mean. I believe it's time for the summer rock festivals in Europe to give the lads a call for next season, yeah? no? Recommended.
MySpace site

HESS: "Living In Yesterday"

Rating: RRR
Label: Frontiers 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Ex-Harem Scarem singer Harry Hess surely isn't "Living In Yesterday". His latest album is a contemporary sounding melodic rock disc, sounding very much like something that even the major labels could release. Many of these songs could easily find their place on the latest Bon Jovi, Lifehouse or Daughtry albums. There's even a song ("I Don't Wanna Want You") that would most probably be a hit for someone like Kelly Clarkson or Pink. Maybe it will be someday, who knows.

The fact that this album sounds like a major label release is its' downfall too. The weaker tracks are the kind of nice, but bland mainstream radio rock that major label excecutives seem to love. You know, the kind of stuff that the next rocker-type of an American Idol/The Voice winner could quickly record to fill an album.

My picks from the album are the catchy pop/rock of the title track, the power ballads "It's Over" and "I Live For You" and the aforementioned "I Don't Wanna Want You". They're not really "Song Of The Year" candidates, but likeable, solid melodic tracks. The rest of the songs aren't that far behind, but somehow they don't leave any lasting impressions. An okay album, but after the excellent First Signal project, I can't help but feel just a bit disappointed.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

OZZY OSBOURNE: "Speak Of The Devil" (DVD)

Rating: DVD
Label: Eagle Rock 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Prince of fookin darkness at his prime or rather not? Constantly drunk as a skunk and in mourning of his best mate (that's Randy Rhoads) following the guitarist's tragic and unnecessarily death merely a few months earlier. Surely this must be a complete disaster of a performance by the band and in particular John Ozzy Osbourne? But nope, it's a smashing concert recorded at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater in California US of A on June 12th, 1982.

The band took a couple of months off before continuing with the delayed part of the original 'Diary Of A Madman' tour. They replaced Rhoads with Brad Gillis (he would finally receive a recording contract with his own band this year, Night Ranger) and he's pretty much on fire this day along with the rest of the band, bassist Rudy Sarzo, keyboard player Don Airey, and drummer Tommy Aldridge.

Not to be confused with the 'Speak of the Devil' album though, since that's a different concert from the 1982 tour. This particular concert was originally aired on MTV back in the day, and it's more or less the best of the first two Ozzy releases with the standard Sabbath part towards the end of the show (Iron Man, Children Of The Grave, Paranoid). Aldridge is the backbone of the band along with fellow timekeeper and four string master: Sarzo. Hardly a surprise when this other Englishman abroad gave the two a call as it was time to conquer America (David Coverdale /Whitesnake).

Gillis rips and shreds like a proper metal guitarist though and it makes you wonder why he didn't stay with the prince of darkness? It's a glimpse of the Ozzy heydays and especially fun to watch for us who weren't there in the first place. My favorite Ozzy album is however the following studio effort (Bark At The Moon). But there's not a duff moment among these tracks. Over The Mountain, Mr Crowley, Crazy Train, Revelation (Mother Earth), Steal Away (The Night), Suicide Solution, Guitar /Drum Solo, Goodbye To Romance, I Don't Know, Believer, Flying High Again.

AUDIO PORN: "Jezebels Kiss"

Rating: RRR
Label: JK Rec/Music Buy Mail 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

They're promoting this as the new project by former Jezebels Kiss members Azriel St.Michaels and Byron Black? Excuse me but are we supposed to nod and smile in agreement as to say, yeah, kick-ass band? But what if you're hardly familiar with the rather obscure and dare I say unheard of hard rock act and their background story? Your fault? out of touch? Fair enough, simply point me in the direction of their success and we'll soon catch up by reading their internet bio of the past. What? No? could have fooled me.

There's the Hydrogyn connection since their guitarist Jeff Westlake is responsible for the six-string as well as producing the album. The first four tracks are all stuck in the typical early nineties dull melodic rock with merely a hint of sleaze 'ala any record by Drivin N Cryin, Bulletboys, etc. The slightly "modern" rock approach of tracks such as "Above The Stars", "Butterfly", "Cut", and "Arms Of Suicide", are actually a lot better. Darn nice and more in the vein of any former Dokken members' side project or the solo efforts by Jeff Pilson.

I'm especially fond of the "Cut" song with its clever lyric and hypnotic beat. The ballad song, "Without You", clearly inspired by "With Or Without You" by U2 and Bono must be pissing himself for not thinking about this version. Seriously though, it's a nice little tune and so what if you're listening to a dodgy version of U2 fronted by Jeff Pilson.

Who ever wrote the press-release should be shot immediately for this sentence alone and I quote, "Their infectious rhythms will keep you screaming for more and leave your girlfriend pregnant long after the last notes have faded", end quote. I'm actually lost for words (speechless, no?). Miscalculation, misjudgement? The hurling cascade of vomit and puke is most likely due to not agreeing with the music and not because of your dillusional mind. Final verdict: Not bad, not great, skip the first four tracks.

BONAFIDE: "Ultimate Rebel"

Rating: RRR
Label: Rootsy 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Husky barbwire vocals, check. Pub rock guitar riffs in the vein of acca dacca, check. Worst CD artcover of the year, check. Well, alright then fellows, let's go! The Ultimate Rebel - according to Sweden's Bonafide the disturbing image of a person wearing a wrestling/gimp mask? There's a picture perfect aka kodak moment if ever for the kiddies. The rebel is either the deranged man who likes to wrestle other men for a living or the pervo at your neighbours basement (who's who?). Cleary not my definition of the ultimate rebel, but hey, what ever thickle your fancy.

The best and easiest way out to try and describe this CD would clearly be AC/DC-ish, since it's international and darn popular. However, the nerdy expert and die-hard fan of Swedish hard rock and metal may also recall the Tornado Babies group of the early nineties. Delirious anyone? Energic rock with a proper belter of a vocalist and the ten tracks of raw music recorded during a week or less. And what about Reptile Smile?

Nontheless, Bonafide have an obvious AC/DC influence, but they also give off a feel more like Tornado Babies meet the Backyard Babies, if this make sense? They probably won't have the instant hit appeal and credibility of other bands playing the three/four chords circus, but I reckon it's one of the better albums of its style and genre so far in twenty twelve. It's noisy, loud, and jam-packed with decent sing-a-long melodies that obviously would go hand in hand with a beer or two. The twin-guitar work may at times also remind you of the stuff that Scorpions did during the early/mid eighties. "Blue Skies Red" is more of a rhythmic marcher than aussie rock, and makes for a nice change with bulky riffs and hooky melody. Kinda Neat.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ECLIPSE: "Bleed & Scream"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Frontiers 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Erik MÃ¥rtensson is probably the busiest man in hard rock these days. He was the main writer on my favourite album of last year, Toby Hitchcock's "Mercury Down" and his songs have found their way to several other Frontiers releases lately. This year he's been working on the new W.E.T. and Jimi Jamison albums, not to mention the two bands he fronts: The Friday Nights and the band in the spotlight now - Eclipse. He's really striking while the iron is hot, but as long as he keeps coming up with songs as good as these are, I'll say "keep on striking!"

Compared to the more AOR-friendly "Mercury Down", "Bleed & Scream" is a harder-edged album, yet still highly melodic and catchy. We're talking about turbo-charged hard rock, and possibly the best Eclipse album so far.

What I first noticed about this album was the relentless energy. Most of the songs are fast-paced, with more guitars than you could ask for. MÃ¥rtensson's vocal performance is outstanding and the whole band seems to be on fire. The full-on approach is at times even a little overbearing.

The album's stand-out tracks include the title track, which is also the first single and video. Plenty of impressive guitar work, interesting vocal melodies and highly melodic chorus - what more could one ask? The fast-paced "Ain't Dead Yet" is another highlight with its' cool chorus that kind of sneaks up on you. It's also one of the more "metallic" tracks of the album, slightly Edguy'ish. "S.O.S." is one of the AOR-styled songs and one that offers a bit of a breather among the more frantic songs.

Whitesnake's "1987" is probably a big influence on the guys, as there are a few "flashback" moments when listening to these songs. Actually, the song "Battlelines" is a total tribute to the year 1987, with Whitesnake-like verses and a chorus that could've been on Gary Moore's '87 release "Wild Frontier".

There aren't any particulary weak songs on the album, but maybe a few that I haven't warmed up to. The ballad "A Bitter Taste" is one of them, the full-throttle metal of "Take Back The Fear" another. But these are frankly quite minor details, and this album is only maybe one killer song short of the full set of "R's".


Rating: RRR
Label: State Of Salazar 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

If you thought that Work Of Art were Sweden's official answer to Toto, you might think again after listening to State Of Salazar. This bunch revisits several eras of Toto, and make a quick detour in Chicago as well. Smooth AOR is the name of the game, and if this west coast style is your kind of music, you're in for a treat. The performances and the production are superb, and the songs are first class soft rockers.

I'll admit that i am not that big a west coast fan, so the horns of "when heroes fall" or the jazzy vibe of "The blind man" do not really hit the bullseye with me, but they'll make die-hard Fans of the genre very happy I guess. In fact, I'm a bit worried about the band's direction. My absolute favourite tracks of the 7-track EP are "only" bonustracks. If that means that the band doesn't rate the slightly harder-edged "I Believe In You" and "Adrianne" that highly, there's always the danger of them going all soft and wimpy. I kind of wish that it won't happen. The R in AOR stands for Rock after all...


Rating: RR
Label: Phoenix Rising 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Phoenix Rising was marketed to us as a "new sensational melodic rock band". Well, there's one word in that sentence that doesn't quite match to what I'm listening...

I'm sure that the band has all the right intentions to become the next AOR sensation, but that's not going to happen with these songs. Yes, they have learned a few Journey trademarks and created some melodies which are in the same ballpark, but they also have some clumsy lyrics, strange arrangements, peculiar drumming and some offkey vocals. No homeruns yet.

The first three songs have the strong Journey influences, while the ballad "It's Up To You And Me" has a slightly proggy vibe. The title track is heavier than the others with touches of vintage Dokken and guitar solo that owes a bit to Neal Schon (again). Bear in mind that these influences and touches do not mean that the band would be ready to compete with the big guns yet or anytime soon.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Rating: RRR
Label: Escape Music 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Four New Jersey and Long Island (NY) musicians decides to record the retro blues melodic album during the worst possible era of hard rock and metal. That's mid-nineties and pre-internet in case you didn't know. The result? I believe you're already familiar with the correct answer to our formidable question. By the way, why are we no longer refering to ourselves in first person? Because we are too posh to use proper English - that's why (and to type anything remotely interesting for that matter).

The gang of four and musicians of the Place Called Rage were: guitarist Al Pitrelli (Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Asia, Savatage, Jolt, etc), vocalist Tommy Farese (Trans Siberian Orchestra, Rondinelli), bassist Danny Miranda (Blue Oyster Cult, Queen feat.Paul Rodgers), and drummer Chuck Bonfonte (Saraya, Joe Lynn Turner, Flesh & Blood). It's said to be a record that would try and capture the essence of the Long Island sound? However, I could mostly discover the British 'meat and potato' rock deeply rooted into acts such as Free, Purple, The Faces/Rod Stewart, and any dusty old record featuring Paul Rodgers. But hey, they were all inspired by Black American music (R&B/Blues) in the first place anyhow.

The title track may also remind you of the first Blue Murder album and the Coverdale fronted Purple. The following track, "Trapped", takes a lot of the soul/Hughes Purple and those roaring keys in the background, the handy work of guest keyboardist Mark Mangold (Touch, Drive She Said). Tracks such as "Take It Lying Down" and "Someday" are blues/soul/R&B numbers in the vein of the first Little Caesar album (or why not the Flesh & Blood project?). Farese is the spot on raspy vocalist moulded in southern whiskey tradition and the overall sound is raw due to most of what you hear is one take, there was very little time to overdub or add background vocals, etc. Final verdict: Don't expect slick U.S. arena rock. Accept the smokey blues and you might just end up surprised by the quality of the band. I need more of the hooks and catchy melodies to really hand out the R's though.

DIAMONDOG: "Faithful Unto Death"

Rating: R
Label: Liljegren/Doolittle 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Who let the dog(s) out? According to the press release, one of the most promising rock bands in the Norwegian music scene after more than a decade of hard efforts. Really? That would clearly be just as big a lie as if any Swede would be daft enough to analyze the requirements of their given situation and later proclaim Takida as the best rock band in the Swedish music scene. Christ oh mighty, they're like a watered down version of any third rate U.S. rock band as of present. Totally bland and uninspiring.

"Faithful Unto Death" is in fact a re-release of Diamondog's third album "Kill Me", since they've now signed an agreement with Swedish Doolittle Group for a worldwide release. Two songs (Messed Up, Keep Me Safe) are however not included in the new edition as they've been replaced with "Let The Fight Begin" and "Soak It In". It's merely a shame though they never got around to replace the rest of the tracks along with their entire band. Nah, that's a bit harsh, the musicians are okay.

The music? It's like if you're watching a car crash accident in slow-motion and bits and pieces of various sever bodyparts are flying across the screen. You're simply trying to duck and cover as the strange Foo Fighter vs. Takida vs. Motorhead vs. Hoobastank vs. Linkin Park song gets in your way. Two keepers though, the catchy tune of "Let It Show" and the fine ballad of, "Don't You Die". Norway, if Diamondog is the most promising hardrock act you can produce as of today. Simply don't and focus on producing more of the great A-HA pop, etc. Then again, ignore the lack of songs, original ideas, and overall content, and end up mighty pleased with a brand new coaster?

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Rating: RRRR
Label: Proper R 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Are you fed up listening to Bob Dylan as he mumbles through yet another set of songs? Does your Tom Petty collection mostly collect dust nowadays? Can't find anything remarkable with Neil Young or Jackson Browne as of lately? Still in shock over the deaths of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and the whole darn project of the Traveling Wilburys? Look no further as this might just be the album that will once again have you believing in traditional U.S. rock and Americana. Nothing remotely new, fancy, or fresh, just darn good and sweet.

Emperors of Wyoming is the new project/band featuring Butch Vig. Well known internationally for producing classic albums such as Nirvana's Nevermind, Smashing Pumpkin's Siamese Dream, Sonic Youth's Dirty, Green Day, etc. Not to forget for being the drummer and founding member of Garbage. Along side him on this record are the Anderson brothers (Pete -bass, Frank -guitar, lap/pedal steel dito) of cult Bay Area rockers Call Me Bwana, and former Fire Town vocalist/guitarist Phil Davis.

It's 10 tracks of traditional alt country/folk/rock with its sound and aesthetic rooted in the turn-of-the-century American West the album delivers raw Americana. And hey, I believe their monicker is straight off the vast back catalogue of Neil Young? ('The Emperor of Wyoming' from the self-titled 1968 debut album). The opening, "The Bittersweet Sound of Goodbye" sets the standard of the entire album with its songwriting style of Bob Dylan and bits and pieces of The Waterboys. Next up, "Avalanche Girl", catchy laidback rock in the vein of Tom Petty in the seventies. We're off to a great start and it's just the beginning.

"Never Got Over You" is frankly just a tad modern and truely lovely mish-mash of the two dead gentlemen wearing all black (Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash). We salute you brothers of black leather and shades. "I'm Your Man" takes a lot from the slow songs of early/mid 70's Rolling Stones, and mixes it with traditional Americana and country. "Cornfield Palace" is the twang country/rock of the Traveling Wilburys and any old cowboy riding down the sunset with a stupid big grin on his face. Hey, is that Jackson Browne and David Lindley in the background? Nah, but it sure could have been in a different time and place. Excellent. Next track, "Brand New Heart Of Stone", basically a HUGE tribute to Neil Young and his Heart Of Gold era.

Two more great originals (Cruel Love Song, Sweep Away) until they decided to include two rather average covers at the end of the disc. "The Pinery Boy" is a traditional Wisconsin River ballad from the 18th century and not too shabby really. "Bless The Weather" on the other hand is the 1971 song written by John Martyn and quite the boring melody that simply crawls along to the same beat and/or tempo. Final verdict: Cordial and universal? I know nothing to the contrary. Highly recommended!
facebook page

AFTER: "Edges Of The World"

Rating: EP
Label: Aftermusic 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Rubbish name = rubbish act? It's really not that simple and I'm pleased to report that After's music is way better than its monicker. Are we running out of ideas in the 2000's when it's down to coming up with you band/brand name or what? Let's leave this discussion for another day shall we? Since we're really not here to debate the pros and cons of finding the perfect letters to print on your t-shirts and posters.

"Edges Of The World" is the new 4-track EP from the L.A./U.S. power-trio After, consisting of Jose Freitas (vocals, guitar), Matt Denis (bass) and Brian Santner (drums). They quickly gained a reputation for inspiring live performances with gigs at The Roxy's, The Viper Room, and The Troubadour. It's the U.S. of A rock you'd most likely refer to as "post-grunge" but that's to simplify things as we could have been refering to any kind of music really. They're a promosing act and the three originals (Days Ago, Bones, Edges of The World) are all sort of radio friendly, decent enough to wake you up from your daily slumber and start paying attention to the music.

They've also included a cover of The Door's, "Riders On The Storm", but I can't say I'm too impressed by their version. They should focus on their own material since they're not bad at all. Looking forward to more After in the future to come and make sure to check out the link for more info.
facebook page

ATLANTYCA: "To Nowhere and Beyond"

Rating: RR
Label: Brennus/Germusica 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Atlantyca is a progressive rock project/band put together by the Putigny brothers (Julien - guitars, Maxime - bass) from Lyon/France. They quickly recruited drummer Laurent Falso and the trio spent a lot of time in the studio, working constantly to develop their songs into demos. Lyric-wise, all the songs on "To Nowhere and Beyond" are linked to the inner journey aka the secret of life and its very existence.

Instead of finding the one vocalist to front their band, the trio decided to approach several class singers from around the world. Andy Kuntz (Vanden Plas - lead on 2 songs), Paul Shortino (Quiet Riot, Rough Cutt, King Kobra, - lead on 'My Road'), Edu Falaschi (Angra, - 2 songs) and David Steele (session vocalist who has recorded with rock legends such as Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, The Cult, - 3 songs) and the women simply known as 'Tara' and 'Michelle' sings lead on one track each.

But here's the catch, there's no info whatsoever in the booklet or press-release about the women?? Are these people responsible for great vocal performances simply not important enough to mention?? In fact, only the men are included as lead vocalists in the press-release. Utter b.s. especially since Michelle sings like a Goddess on "Time After Time" with her slightly raspy voice. Other highlights are "Eternity" - sounds like one of those ballads sung by Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, Hughes/Thrall, etc) and perhaps even more like his performances with the Phenomena project? This time however the song is performed by David Steele and he's not bad at all.

In fact, Steele and Shortino are top notch and the latters' performance on "My Road" is nuthin' but sheer class. Unfortunately, the first three tracks are very average and below and the album doesn't come alive until track five (Eternity). The following four tracks are all great though. The mastering of "To Nowhere and Beyond" was done by Andy VanDette (Rush, Porcupine Tree). Neglect against women is a big no-no though.

Friday, August 10, 2012

HYDROGYN: "Private Sessions"

Rating: RRR
Label: Rapid Fire Entertainment 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Hydrogyn have been around for a few years and they've managed to get a rather high profile, yet I haven't heard much of their music until now. I've seen plenty of photos of their vocalist Julie Westlake though, magazines and websites seem to be quite eager to publish them every given chance... I wonder why? :)

I Don't know why, but I was under the impression that Hydrogyn played heavier metal than what's on offer here. On "Private Sessions" they play fairly mainstream modern hard rock with some similarities to Evanescence and Within Temptation. There are touches of "Slave To The Grind"-era Skid Row too. That combination doesn't sound too bad at all, I'm actually quite glad that my strange impression of them being a full-on metal band was wrong.

My initial thoughts of the album were that Hydrogyn were a bit lost, trying to find their identity. However, after several spins the pieces started to fit and now the album sounds more cohesive. Some of the songs still sound a bit forced, as if they tried to fit them into the Evanescence/Within Temptation mould a bit too hard.

The band has several rather good songs, the highly melodic "Forbidden Kind" and "I Don't Know" for example, but maybe the one sure-fire hit is still missing. Julie Westlake is certainly not just a pretty face, she's an excellent vocalist and the "X-factor" that separates the band from the others. I have a feeling that Hydrogyn might be heading for the next level, if not with this album but maybe with the next one.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

TRIUMPH: "Live At Sweden Rock"

Rating: Live
Label: Frontiers 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Triumph - a power trio from Toronto/Canada consisting of virtuoso musicians with a knack for coming up with slighty progressive yet darn catchy melodic melodies. It's merely a shame that this other Canadian power-trio got close to all the attention and credibility from rock journalists and press at the time. And to be frank, many thought of Triumph as poor man's Rush and they came first after all.

But their fans demanded it and after 20 years apart, the long-awaited reunion (of vocalist/guitarist Rik Emmett, bassist/keyboardist Mike Levine, and vocalist/drummer Gil Moore) took place at Sweden Rock Festival, on June 7, 2008, and here's the entire performance on CD. Rik Emmett is the unsung hero of classic rock with impressive lead vocals and top notch guitar-work.

Geddy Lee might just have been an early source of inspiration vocal-wise, but there's so much more to Emmett's vocal chords and the music always been more about straight rock arrangements anyhow. Surely I'm not the only one who thinks there's a small connection between Triumph/Rik Emmett and Montrose/Sammy Hagar?? I'm not usually the live album fan and I'd rather just spend some time with the DVD performance. However, this simply reeks of professionalism and it's nice to listen to proper musicians at work for once. Not nearly as essential as their classic 1985 live release, "Stages", but still miles ahead of most acts. I don't quite understand why they decided to include a cover of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" though? We'd much rather have another Triumph original of the eighties - thanks. Track Listing: When The Lights Go Down, Lay It On The Line, Allied Forces, Never Surrender, I Live For The Weekend, Blinding Light Show, Rocky Mountain Way, Magic Power, Rock N Roll Machine, Fight The Good Fight.


Rating: RRR
Label: Bongo Beat 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Fraze Gang "2" is the full length follow-up to the 2006 debut by Canadian rockers and former Brighton Rock members Greg Frazer (vocals/guitar) and bassist Stevie Skreebs. In the press release this album is slated to be considerably heavier than what some people might expect. Moving two steps further away from the pure melodic schlock and one step closer to melodic metal?

But there's absolutely no need to worry as it's very much still the old eighties melodic metal sound at play. Perhaps a tad more arrangements in the vein of Judas Priest (especially and mostly heard on the opening track "Saint Or Sinner") and more importantly the early Dokken-flavored guitar riffing and the KISS/Gene $immons influence. The addition of guitarist Derek McGowan as a full time band member may have something to do with their sound. But to be perfectly honest, Brighton Rock sounded an awful lot like Dokken at times, no? Have a listen to the track, "White Lightning", and you'll notice the connection between fore-mentioned acts.

"2" speaks volumes in its 10 tracks of guitar rock and stomping material. Overall, the full but not quite massive sound captured here is still something to be commended, so close to full marks to renowned producer Beau Hill for his work behind the mixing desk and especially considering the budget. Known for his extensive work with '80s artists such as Ratt, Alice Cooper, Europe and Winger, etc, you know it's going to be pretty solid craftmanship. "In Your Face" comes straight at you with hypnotic mid-tempo swagger and rock in the vein of Black N Blue, Dokken, and Frazer/Skreebs' previous act while "Juggernaut" is pure Gene $immons' mixed up with the Fraze Gang.

There are two covers amongst the originals and they're not badly performed at all. First up, "I Just Want to Make Love to You", the 1954 old blues song written by Willie Dixon and legendary recorded by Muddy Waters. Obviously metal-tinted and with a twist that works out nicely in the end. "Don't Call Us We'll Call You" was orignally recorded by cult rockers Sugarloaf in the mid seventies. "Tough Enough" huff and puff along the track like chubby Gene $immons on a night out with the lads from Black N Blue. "This Is It" is however the only real downer as it's a standard power ballad with a great verse and a very disappointing refrain. Nah, "Never Want To Say Goodbye" is the ballad of the album. Final verdict: Old skool mid-tempo rock and recommended if you're into acts such as Black N Blue, Dokken, Gene $immons.

KLOGR: "Till You Decay"

Rating: RR
Label: Valery 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

KLOGR? Could you give us another vowel please? The name is appear/apparently a reference to the law of Weber-Fencher, developed in the second half of the 800's, which is obviously known as the fundamental psycho-physical relationship, duh! [S=K log R]. They would also like us to pronounce their band name as 'kay-log-are', but that's frankly no fun at all. It sounds more like the name of the dodgy lookin' alien in the background of any given episode of Star Wars. Or why not the tall, bald, striker, upfront with the Czech national football team? KLOOOGGGRRRRR!! Goaaaaallll!! Goal, Goal, Goal! KLOGR!

Ehem, whatever. The lads are playing alternative rock/metal and "Till You Decay" is basically a concept album based on "big brother" (not the reality show). According to their rock n roll statement, society is the puppet master who(m) controls, judges, and eventually suficates their citizens. Apocalyptic rock where the Italian/Americans are continuelly mixing it up with the odd Soundgarden groove and dropping hints of both Rage Against The Machine and Nine Inch Nails without ever stepping up to the plate to produce the perfect homerun.

The album contains the typical mid-nineties Grunge/Industrial staple ingredients, loud, crunchy guitars, pseudo vocals, and the sheer angst/energy of their aggressive bass-player. Lots of grooves and techincal riffing makes this a interesting album at first and the opening three tracks (Live Dying, Silk and Thorns, White Eyes) are all sort of cool and deadly fun. Each and every following track is however worse than previous song and dance number. They're all steeped in a similar mode and it's difficult to tell them apart in the end. It's a shame really as enjoy the style of KLOGR and here's hoping next effort will impress the crap outta' the world.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Rating: RRR
Label: Spinefarm 2012
Review by Alan Holloway

Despite sounding like an 80’s kids cartoon, Kobra & The Lotus are actually a Canadian heavy metal band, fronted by the rather attractive Kobra Paige, who is also the brains behind the band itself. This self titled album is their second, and pulls off the same old school metal tricks as their 2010 debut “Out Of The Pit”, with subtle improvements scattered about.

Kobra & The Lotus are, at heart, a modern mash up of classic Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. They even put the album together at Steve Harris’ farm, and I reckon he must have loved it. The single “Forever One” demonstrates this amply, with Maiden riffs building up to a classic Priest chorus, Paige’s vocals perfectly skipping between Dickinson’s wail and Halford’s scream. There’s absolutely no doubt that this band are proper old school metal, and they don’t care who knows it. When they fly, such as on “Heven’s Veins”, they fly high, with catchy, heavy guitar fuelled metal. The band seem very much in sync, and Paige really does have a great voice for this sort of stuff, strong and clear without any growling or grunting. On the downside it can all get a little yawnsome after a while, and I found it hard to keep my enthusiasm levels up for the whole album.

Overall, this is a solid metal album that could use a little work in some of the compositions. It’s one of those you buy because you love the single, but find that it’s one of a handful of great tracks that nestle amongst some more average ones. Either way, this is a band to keep an eye on, because when they hit the sweet spot they’re going to make some big waves.

THE TREATMENT: "This Might Hurt

Rating: RRRR
Label: Record Label 2012
Review by Alan Holloway

Okay, so who remembers Roadstar? British, young, full of promise and masterminded by Airrace man Laurie Mansworth, Roadstar were hotly tipped to be the Next Big Thing, but never quite made it, despite two first class albums, and split with Mansworth to grow even bigger balls (and more disappointment) as Heaven’s Basement. I know there are people out there who miss the lads, and so does Mansworth, as The Treatment seem to be nothing less that Roadstar part 2, this time featuring his own boy, Dhani Mansworth, on drums.

“This Might Hurt” was released last year, but has been picked up and polished by Spinefarm to promote the band as they go out with Kiss and Motley Crue, throwing in a couple of new tracks and changing the ghastly original cover to a totally new, almost as bad one. Get past the cover, though, and you find a really cool album. Take bits of Tesla (Matt Jones has a marvellous Jeff Keith-esque voice), The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith and mix liberally with the two Roadstar albums and The Treatment will basically arrive fully formed. Plenty of sleaze, some cool riffs and no doubt a gut full of live presence, it’s a very hard album to dislike.

If I have to be critical (and I do, it’s sorta the job) then it all comes back to the fact that this could have been the third Roadstar album. It bears the legend “All Songs Written By The Treatment”, but Mansworth Snr’s bootprints are all over it (and he owns the publishing copyright). I’ve got nothing against the guy, but he’s going round in ever decreasing circles by throwing out another band with the same sound. That said, and this is the confusing bit, if Roadstar had stayed together and released this album I would have raved about it.

So The Treatment get a four R rating, purely because the music on offer is still great to listen to. If you liked Roadstar, or the original incarnation of Heaven’s Basement, you will no doubt get a huge kick out of “This Might Hurt”, but be warned: you might feel a little dirty afterwards. Purebred rawk and rawl, certainly, but I hope their next disc moves them forward and lifts them out of a dead band’s long shadow.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

LOVERBOY: "Rock N Roll Revival"

Rating: N/A
Label: Frontiers 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

This is a compilation release featuring nine re-recorded oldies and three new songs. To make a long story short, originally formed as an Canadian sort of super-group. Loverboy feature several bands members that are veterans of the seventies rock scene in acts such as Streetheart and Moxy. Their 1980 debut album charted not only in their homeland but also in the USA and they had great success in the singles charts throughout most of the eighties.

They've sold more than 10 million albums and most if not all of them on the other side of the pond as most Europeans had not heard of the band until a certain 'Top Gun' picture movie and "Heaven In Your Eyes". By the way, did Lionel Ritchie ever object to the song considering its similar (keyboard) structure to his mega hit "Say You Say Me". Anyhow, most Euro-folks probably still think of them in the same sentence as Berlin (Take My Breath Away) and the "Top Gun one-hit wonder kind of act". We all know better though, yeah, no, maybe, perhaps?

They've been on/off as a band for quite a while and previous comeback albums really hasn't been too much to write home about. Anyhow, they are touring the states with Journey and Pat Benatar and having reunited at Bryan Adams Vancouver studio The Warehouse, with their original engineer, legendary producer Bob Rock [Metallica, Aerosmith, The Cure, Bon Jovi, etc]. The band has recorded three new songs with Rock and it's more or less the original line-up with Mike Reno (Vocals), Paul Dean (Guitars), Doug Johnson (Keyboards), Matt Frenette (Drums), and new old geezer bassist Ken "Spider" Sinnaeve (also ex-Streetheart).

The first three tracks are the new ones with "Rock 'N' Roll Revival" as the opening number. It's a decent enough summer tune with the typical early 80's keyboard sound of the band. Very retro and true to their heydays. Reno may sound a bit strained during the refrain and it's an okay/good start but hardly the perfect revival. "No Tomorrow" is better and more towards their slick period 'ala the Wildside album or Mutt Lange/Def Lep/Bryan Adams rock. Lyrics that goes along the lines of "letting go", "no lookin' back, what's done is done" and "there's no tomorrow in yesterday". The song is all nostalgia and catchy retro rock though. Perhaps there is a tomorrow in yesterday's music for Loverboy after all? "Heartbreaker" follows a similar path and I find myself humming along to the melody. Extra kudos for the singing guitar work by Paul Dean. Overall good enough stuff and it's a shame that we don't get more of them. Then again, most folks wants to hear the oldies and are leaving the gig for a snack/beverage as they hear this message over the PA: "next song is from our brand new album" (sigh!).

What can you say about re-recordings? It's a bit silly and pointless unless you're talkin' about a really old act from the 60's or early 70's. You know, when they had to struggle with a dodgy production and in some cases not even stereo. It's not like if these versions are better or more interesting than the originals (rather the opposite). It will not cause the average Loverboy and rock fan to scream of joy as the boyos dives into a "live" guitar break during "Lovin' Every Minute Of It" or the bass/drum outro of "Hot Girls In Love". They do have truly catchy material though and if anything let's hope this comp will cause more folks to discover the Loverboy band. Geez, worst monicker of the 80's?? Final verdict: Summer fun tunes but music is so deeply rooted to memories and I'm not sure if the old guard will appreciate re-recordings? Tracklist: Turn Me Loose, Working For The Weekend, Lovin' Every Minute of It, The Kid Is Hot Tonight, Lucky Ones, Always On My Mind, Queen Of The Broken Hearts, When It's Over, Hot Girls In Love.

URBANSNAKE: "Who Says Goodnight"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Ettno Roc 2012
Review by Alan Holloway

This came out from nowhere, dropping into my inbox with an ominous “ping”. There’s what seems to be a million heavy metal bands out there trying to get attention and share their music, and there’s just not enough time to listen to them all, but I clicked on the Urbansnake link to see if they were worth my time. Well, obviously they were, because you’re reading this review, but there’s more to Urbanskae than just making me sit up and take notice.

Too many metal bands these days lack what I would call heart. Sure, they make loud, heavy music with a varying success rate, but there’s often something missing, something that Metallica had in the old days, something Pantera exuded. It seems to come with new, hungry bands, getting beaten out the longer they go on, especially if they gain success and end up doing what they are told rather than what they want. Noo Yoik's Urbansnake have more heart than a butcher’s shop, more passion than Valentine’s Day and more belief than the Vatican. This, my friends, is metal as it was always supposed to be.

“Who Says Goodnight” has some very good tracks on it, to put it simply. They don’t try to be too clever, and have a sound derived from Pantera, Sabbath, Testament and all those old buggers. They fuse melody with massive, stomping riffs, and whilst you can sing along you can also headbang like a bastard to every track. Opener “Cracks Of War” really sets the tone, coming at you like an anvil on a rope, with Vinny Corvino’s vocals blasting out with utter conviction amongst a riff that will peel your flesh. If the whole album was this good, it would beget the maximum rating without a doubt, and even though it isn’t, it’s still a powerful album with plenty to like.

Obviously, I like this, and I really don’t go for a lot of new metal bands these days. Like I said, Urbansnake have that extra something to go with some cool metal tunes. There’s a decidedly retro tone to them, and they’re not trying to be the next Avenged Sevenfold, but if you like your metal to hearken back to the days when it stuck a finger up at the world and rocked with it’s cock out, Urbansnake might just be for you.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The RABID WHOLE: "Refuge"

Rating: RRR
Label: Boonsdale Records 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

The Rabid Whole delivers a nice mixture of rock and electronic elements on their second album release, Refuge. Hailing from the land of Icehockey, Loverboy, Michael J Fox, Helix (believe it or not, but there is a connection), Rush, and Bryan Adams, the band comes along like a fresh breathe of air with their close to danceable beats and industrial-lite sounds.

A male (Andreas Weiss) and female (Chalsey Noelle) vocal showdown and melodies that goes through every single genre from eighties synth rock (Human League) to mainstream today (Linkin Park). Travel back again in time to the sound of Japan (the band) and forward to the more heavy pattern rock of Static-X. Indeed, it's quite the vivid experience and expect the whole she-bang from massive layers of synthesizers to crashing guitars.

You may not enjoy absolutely every single track on 'Refuge' and to be perfectly honest, some of the slow(er) tunes are a lot better than the uptempo ones. For example, "Serenity Falls", should once and for all prove that Chalsey should be singing plenty of more leads as her vocals cuts like a hot knife through butter. Something like "Delusion" is frankly just too close to Linkin Park and in my opinion we've heard it all a million times before in a ten years period of time. The closing title track and "Stargazer" are like if they are promising us there's more sheer quality songs to come in future albums. Refuge was recorded and produced by Karl Schubach (Misery Signals, Solace), mixed by Dave Ogilvie (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson) and mastered by Noah Mintz (Death From Above), so expect nuthin' but a decent/nice effort.

PYLON: "The Harrowing Of Hell"

Rating: RR
Label: Quam Libet 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

We haven't been too kind to Pylon in previous reviews. Well, actually. I kind of enjoy the music and found their lead singer to be extremely boring. Words and phrases such as 'major turd' and 'as much fun as watching wet paint dry' may or may not have been visable on your PC screen in the past. For the brand new 'The Harrowing Of Hell' album, Andy La Morte has joined the now former power trio as second guitarist and there's a slightly new type of harmonies on display.

Vocalist/guitarist Matt Brand uses his new freedom from guitar-playing and sings against the utterly doomy guitar riffs, so there's a new combination of Pylon melodies in the works. The slow monolithic sound will however still remind you of Saint Vitus, Count Raven, Candlemass, and any other Sabbath-ish doom and gloom act of the past. But here you can also find a track such as, "Psalm 139a", which at times may have you thinking about the early Mercyful Fate albums.

It's already their fifth album and "The Harrowing of Hell" will be released in a limited edition on vinyl only (where's my vinyl copy then?). The production is very eighties and dated (I'm sure that's the way they like it) and I can't say that I've learned to appreciate the vocals of Mister Brand. This could have been a fantastic doom platter with a singer like Messiah of Candlemass fame upfront and in the studio. The tracks featuring guest vocalist Jordan Cutajar (Nomad Son) is a step in the right direction, and the slow and even more doomy version of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" is more fun than I could ever dream of. Nearly the perfect doom cover tune actually.


Rating: RR
Label: Humbucker/MusicBuyMail 2012
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Having recorded this album in a good studio with a skilled producer and arranger Thomas Wang and having it mixed and mastered by 80'ies' hit producer Beau Hill proves that Hambucker has faith in their music. And the album does sound pretty decent, I give 'em that. But when it comes to the song material, maybe they should have hired a song doctor or two to help out too. What you'll get is 10 tracks of meat'n potato hard rock with very little in the vein of memorable hooks or orginal ideas.

"There Will Never Be Another" gets my vote as the best track of the album, because after 4 and half minutes of boring bluesy balladering the band seems to get a sudden injection of energy and gets into a cool G'N'R-like groove and manages to impress for a little while. As for the rest of the songs, you'll get your Aerosmithy swagger, recycled AccaDacca-riffs and more... not much you'd remember later on though.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

ON-OFF: "Don't Forget The Roll"

Rating: RR
Label: Buil2Kill 2012
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Hells bells. Yet another former AC/DC tribute act with a hunger for performing original material and their own repertoire. Take a wild guess to what kind of music and sound to expect on their sophomore release? Damn right, On-Off doesn't alter too much from the formula of their acca dacca heroes and there's certainly no attempt to trick or fool the listener with a brand new rock, hey, don't forget the roll (pun intended).

Indeed, riding hard on the Aussie legend with three, maximum four chords and a steady beat, the Italian four-piece are unfortunately caught in the usual traps of generic sound and heard it all before material. Don't get me wrong, you would must certainly join in and clap/stomp along to the melodies if they were performing at your local pub. They do have a couple of fun party tunes and the energy to become your favourite beer act for the evening.

Have a kebab or chicken vindaloo on the way home and feel mighty pleased with your sad and pathetic little night out. The next morning however you're not likely to remember much of the said music or why there's a smeared Kebab down your pants. The drummer should wish for a proper kit next christmas as he's banging along to the music on tin cans. It's otherwise a decent vocalist, decent guitars, and a decent production.